Dale Alexander Bremner wants to show us our dreams – on digital film. ‘Images transcend any communication language, images are the rawest and most basic form of communication we’ve ever had. I think it’s touching on a very primitive and primal [way of] thinking, to manipulate and control imagery. I like to think a cinematographer is a visual psychiatrist … having the ability to ingest and invoke emotions and experience in people.’
As the 2013 recipient of the NFSA-ACS John Leake OAM Australian Cinematographers Society Award, Dale said winning the award has given him ‘authentic confidence, the foundation drives all aspects of your life. Swimming in this Olympic-sized pool of talented cinematographers, one needs all the drive they can find.’
At a time when digital technologies have made it easier for filmmakers to produce their own content, Dale says if anything, it’s made it harder for emerging filmmakers to stand out. ‘So many cameras and so many self-shooters and people out there doing their own solo stuff but I think they’re sort of missing the entire point altogether – which is story. Technology is making it harder in the sense that the bar is being raised with more people getting involved and there’s more people producing than ever before, especially in terms of music.’
‘People can just get their own music software and create their own music tracks or songs and it’s exactly the same with film, you know. People can just get their own software and probably half the time they pirate it, don’t even pay for it, get a second-hand camera and bang … next thing you know you’re a cinematographer.’
‘I think there is definitely a difference between someone who studies and goes down the appropriate paths [compared to] someone who just picks up a camera, reads a book and goes for it that way.’
What of the plethitude of content produced for mobile devices and computer screens? How has the amount of content that’s being consumed changed the way cinematographers approach the look of products?
‘There’s so much money now that seems to be focused on mobile and applications, or web-based series or web-based commercials and it’s funny because [the client] might demand a larger workflow or a better camera for nothing, because it’s just going to be [resized] and compressed and played on a vimeo screen no bigger than an iPhone in the first place.’
‘The emphasis in today’s society is on selling us products that we don’t need and products that we don’t want – it’s marketing. We all play a role in it – I don’t want to turn down a fantastic opportunity to make some great contacts, get some great work out there, experience new equipment, knowing that it’s going towards a product that I don’t believe. But, you know we’re all consumers I guess, of some form.’
A sense of adventure
Pioneer Film Australia cinematographer Bert Ive famously chased aerial shots by strapping his camera to a Tiger Moth aeroplane. It’s the very same sense of adventure that attracts Bremner to cinematography, most recently shooting across South-East Asia.
‘Getting to those remote locations and getting to those places you usually wouldn’t even conceive of [normally] getting to, to get that one shot or to get that one angle, it’s fantastic. Climbing a tree for instance, you know it took me 45 minutes to climb a tree to get a shot and there’s no way I’d look at this tree which was covered in ants – no way would I look at it and think about climbing it! But for the shot, you’d do it and it’s that aspect and the aspect of exploration that I love so much about [cinematography] too. Not just exploring the landscape but exploring yourself, exploring the lands, exploring how you see yourself in that image and how you’d like to project it basically.’
‘Winning [the ASC award] was a big highlight in my career. But there’s private little times when those little things like shooting a lot of portraits across South-East Asia [and] trekking into the northern Japanese Alps, meeting certain individuals on the road or capturing people, you know, in the most far out places, totally different background, getting a smile through them or through the camera – it’s those little intimate moments that sound clichéd and cheesy but … that’s the bread and butter of what it’s about I think, getting away from just commercialism.’
‘Having this grant, having this recognition and receiving this award has been mindblowing and I’m incredibly thankful for it.’